October 31, 2005

Japan and China:oil policy in Japan Focus

Japan Focus is definitely paying a lot of attention on energy security issues in East Asia recently. The newsletter contains articles on related issues almost weekly.

In this week's issue two articles on respectively Japan and China are included:
Is China to blame for the rise in oil prices? by Niu Li.
This is the JF introduction:
Many news accounts of surging oil prices have pointed at China, and to a lesser extent India, as culprits given the rising thirst for oil to fuel their high growth economies. This survey of oil demand and consumption by Niu Li challenges these assessments by showingthat China’s oil imports are only one-fourth those of the U.S. Equally important, China is far less dependent on oil for its energy than is the U.S., and in 2005 its oil imports increased only slightly in line with Chinese efforts to conserve energy and favor non-oil energy sources. The problem of spiking, and long-term high oil and energy prices lie above all in two realms. One is the fact that we are fast approaching the tipping point at which world oil production begins to decline, or Hubbard’s Peak in the theory of peak oil explained in several Japan Focus articles. If this is correct, we face long term high and rising oil prices. The other is the failure, above all by U.S. policymakers, to make even token moves toward conservation through the use of tax and other policies to curb the rampant increases in oil consumption that distinguish the U.S. from virtually all other economies. The U.S. is not only by far the world’s largest oil and gas consumer; it is also the largest importer. And in contrast to many other nations, there is no sign of policy-driven efforts to control consumption. Japan Focus.

The second article:
The roots of the Japanese oil victory in Libya by Michael Penn.
This discusses the recent activity of Japanese oil companies in developing Libyan oil fields.

[am at work, so haven't read either of these yet... hope they're interesting]

October 30, 2005


Hmm, I'm not too sure how they got to this result:

Your Blog Should Be Purple

You're an expressive, offbeat blogger who tends to write about anything and everything.
You tend to set blogging trends, and you're the most likely to write your own meme or survey.
You are a bit distant though. Your blog is all about you - not what anyone else has to say.

I think I only agree with the second part of the first sentence... And oh yes, I do love purple. The rest isn't particularly correct I think. Anyone else want to try it and tell me whether or not their colour is more applicable to their blog?

Weekend [updated]

To balance out the nerdy oil/gas talk on this blog:

It's the weekend tomorrow and I'm going here: Amsterdam Dance Event!
Weekends are good. It's been weeks since I have been out dancing so am very excited.

Slight problem: too much choice.
We haven't quite figured out yet what club and/or dj to go to...

We ended up at the Sugar Factory for some 'world grooves', whatever those may be. I think we were there much too early, but by the time we left at about 23:30 there was still nothing going on except a DJ playing fairly relaxed, lounge-like tunes. The stage was packed with instruments, which were mostly decorative. For part of the evening, one guy used some of the various percussion instruments in turn. Nothing actually happened though.
We left to go to the More which was okay, a night of general house-type of music. Good enough to dance to, but nothing too exciting.

Maybe I'm too picky when it comes to good dance music but I hardly ever find anywhere that makes for a fantastic party. If any Amsterdam readers are out there (I know you are...), recommendations please?

All in all it was nevertheless a fun night. It's always fun to catch up with my friend, and as usual we started the evening with good food. It was also some much-needed distraction... I heard back from amazing-job-nr-2; it looks like I'll have to start looking for new fabulous-sounding vacancies again as these guys don't even want me to come in for an interview. Pretty frustrating... my CV is a near-perfect match to the vacancy, but still it's not good enough. I know, I'm way too impatient.... This is not fun though.

Oh well, I will think about that again after this week, which will be packed with painting & wallpapering & unpacking in my new house. Yay :D

October 27, 2005

Oil & gas in the Arctic

BBC News has been doing a series of articles on the effects of global warming and the melting of the ice caps on oil and gas exploration and other new opportunities for the Arctic region.

Arctic exploration creates new alliances - 23/10 - discusses new Norwegian strategies to make more use of the Arctic's resources, and to cooperate with other countries involved.
The Arctic's new gold rush - 25/10 - discusses the issues arising between the five countries bordering the Arctic
Global warming: help or hindrance? - 27/10 - discusses the Arctic's opportunites for energy security

A main point is that as the Arctic ice is melting new opportunities arise to develop the oil fields in the region. Some analysts expect that this area holds up to 25%(!) of the world's undiscovered energy resources (25/10 article). Especially with rising energy prices this is becoming more attractive if current technical difficulties can be overcome.

Some interesting issues are raised in connection to this. There are various territorial disputes between the countries bordering the Artic: the US, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia. This also involves fishing rights, access to shipping routes and so on.

It looks as if this area will become increasingly important. And, with the potential for conflict causing new alliances between countries. Interesting articles about a not very 'visible' part of the world.

October 26, 2005


I saw Wallace & Gromit on the weekend, soooo much fun! I love the humour. It is all so incredibly imaginative and creative. In a review the movie was described as a 'vegetarian horror movie'; yep, that's exactly the genre I suppose!

I am very very behind on movies and there're loads I want to see (think Charlie, Pride and Prejudice and much older ones of course) but this one I definitely don't want to miss:
Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Just had a look at the trailer but it looks like old-fashioned W&G fun. Yay :)

October 16, 2005

Energy Convention Groningen 2005

I just came across an announcement for the Energy Convention in Groningen at the end of this month. It sounds as if they are hosting some interesting workshops on energy and geopolitics. Could be an interesting couple of days.
But, not really something for me to go to, while I'm not professionally involved in any energy issues of course.

However, it gives a long list of participants and so on which is handy for job applications! Finally some more leads on where to send my CV to. I'm really not enjoying this period of jobhunting and getting rejected every time - not surprising, to be honest, as hardly any of the applications so far were to vacancies that matched up well with my CV. So, let's hope this will bring some more success.
(and no, I still haven't heard back from amazing job nr. 2 that I posted about earlier... grrr...)

October 15, 2005

Hmmm... cheese!

Apparently I'm Parmesan cheese:
You are a white, crumbly cheese. You are very social and talkative. You are incredibly friendly to everyone, but also a little lazy.

I can't figure out how to post images... but check it out here

Tag! You're it

So, I've been tagged. Thanks Jules, I think... ;)

Anyway, five random things about me. Let me think…

1) I have lived in 6 different houses over the past 8 years…. That is too many! Let’s hope I can stick with my new house for a while after next month.

2) I seem to have a very selective memory. I love being able to speak different languages but I seem to have forgotten how I get to that stage of being able to speak those relatively fluently! In my new challenge of re-freshing and re-learning French I am completely frustrated by not being able to just, you know, speak. I can’t stand it! But, the years of struggle with English and Japanese have mysteriously disappeared from my memory as I can’t remember how I got through that period with those languages…. Gah.

3) I’m going to Barcelona! Woohoo!
Okay, it’s only for two nights and not until January but: Yay! I’m going to Barcelona!

4) I can’t imagine what my life will be like in a year’s time at all, and I love it. Thinking back, ever since I was 16 or so things have always had a way of working out really well but never in the way I expected. I suppose it started with deciding to go abroad at 16. That is still the best decision I’ve made so far. I have come so much further than I had expected, and it feels as if I’m still just at the beginning! I have no doubt that none of these things in the past years would have happened if I would have stayed home at that time. And I’m confident that that way of having things work itself out will continue on from now, where ever that will take me.

5) My brother and I don’t get along at all. However, there’s a tiny little bit of progress: he’s asked me for advice on his thesis! This was done through chat, and we will have to see how the actual conversation will go but he seemed really happy that I agreed to talk to him about it. Now to get him to do what I will tell him to…

Next up, I’m tagging Daniel, Jeff, aanknopingspunt and Kana. Enjoy guys!

October 14, 2005

More China: Kun Opera

Continuing on from the below post, last night was also spent in the midst of the Amsterdam China Festival. The occasion this time was classical Kun Opera from Shanghai.

Here’s a bit of an introduction. It is over 500 years old but currently only a few groups are left who play this type of Chinese opera.

It was a very very cool evening.
We started off with an introduction into the different types of music and singing that would be used to get an idea of what to expect. Shanghai opera was described as being much more sophisticated and stylized than the more boisterous Beijing Opera (well, the last part is my interpretation after the talk). I immediately started comparing it to Japanese classical theatre: and Kabuki. Well, Chinese opera is definitely different!

The five short pieces that we saw were mostly impressive: acrobatics, expressiveness, costumes, interaction between the actors and the orchestra. Often hilarious with the sounds and singing. But also in movements and so on.
I have to say that the type of ‘sophistication’ was very different from what I was expecting. The stories moved pretty speedy (again, compared with Japanese theatre, not with Western drama), the movements were often haphazard and not very coordinated but it did look very very good.

Now I want to see Beijing Opera. If this was supposed to be ‘sophisticated’ then I’m very curious what Beijing-style will be!

China & space

Here's something that combines my interest in East Asian geopolitics with my much more recent interest in space exploration (I know, I know, very unlike me but I can't help it!)

China launches second manned space mission

Especially this sentence is interesting:
Beijing has attached great importance to its space programme, viewing it as a source of national pride and international prestige.
It confirms what Ian Buruma said in a discussion night on Wednesday evening. As part of the Amsterdam China Festival Buruma and Jan van der Putten (ex-Volkskrant correspondent) discussed the rise of China and what its effects would be in the world, and specifically in relation to the United States. Or so the announcement claimed. Instead the lectures focused mostly on internal issues. Interesting, but not quite what I was expecting.

In any case, one of the major points that Buruma made is that maintaining (political) legitimacy is increasingly important for the Chinese state. One of the most important ways to accomplish this is by sustaining economic growth and realizing the promise of an increasingly wealthy China.

Other ways of maintaining this legitimacy is by emphasizing various national issues. These can be of political nature (think hostility against Taiwan, territorial conflicts with Japan) but also of a very different nature: sports, for example. The Beijing Olympics could have a big effect on increasing national awareness of the Chinese population.* Space exploration is obviously something that is hugely appealing to the imagination of the general public. And with which China could easily ‘score’ in gaining national pride and international prestige as mentioned above.

* Slightly off-topic, I recently heard that some critics are questioning the ability of Beijing to host the Olympics in 2008 due to the severe air pollution. Has anyone else heard this? I haven’t specifically looked for it yet. Apparently the story is that the air in Beijing is so polluted that it would be physically impossible for athletes to run a marathon for example.

October 09, 2005


I'm still a bit stunned.

I was at a launch event for CryoSat yesterday. All looked well for the first hour-and-a-half. Until we switched back to the mission control room, waiting for the first radio signals to come in. Which never came. Later that night it appeared that there had been a problem with the launch sequence and the satellite never fully performed seperation and didn't reach orbit.

A full story is here at the BBC

That's a lot of work and effort and money down the drain.

It makes me wonder how you're supposed to deal with something like this. Obviously not me personally, but the many many people who have worked on this project for years. Some who have thought out the idea of the mission over 10 years ago and now see their concept gone in the Arctic Ocean.
What do you do when something that you've worked so hard and long on ultimately fails? At the moment when you are not really expecting anything to go wrong anymore? Does this also break careers? What will these engineers be doing in the next months? A full commissioning phase had been planned at least until well into 2006, but I guess their work is done now.

And, this obviously brings up questions about the use of space exploration. Is it worth it to put so much money into such a high-risk business? Missions such as CryoSat have a clear economic, scientific, social relevance. To me, it actually seems to be one of the most worthwhile missions in ESA´s Earth Observation missions (others are GOCE, GMES etc).

In comparison, in the short term these missions will most likely be more beneficial to science and so on than research which is being conducted on actual outer space exploration. Technology which will probably only be somewhat useful in several decades, if not more. Should we really be spending millions and millions of Euros on these projects? Especially after the recent NASA problems with their space shuttles as well it will become increasingly difficult to convince the general public but also policy makers and politicians on the usefulness of developing this technology. Interesting issues, and issues which will become more and more important, I think.

October 05, 2005


Quickly on another favourite issue of mine, the previously mentioned Japan Focus has a special issue dedicated to the North Korean issue, following the end of the latest Six Party Talks in China recently. Lots of stuff about the nuclear issue, abductions etc for those interested.

Oil etc!

I'm in the middle of (moving) houses so only a short post on a few things that have caught my attention recently. And yes, we're back on a favourite topic: East Asian energy politics.

This is already a bit older but hopefully still interesting. Japan Focus published an article on Japan, Iran and oil at the end of August: The Battle of Azadegan: Japan, Oil and Independence by Michael Penn. In light of a change in power in Iran before the summer, the ongoing nuclear negotiations and trouble arising from that it will be interesting to see how the countries dependent on Iranian oil will react to this situation (obviously not only Japan, but also China for instance).

Meanwhile, negotiations were held last month between China and Japan about the East China Sea gasfields. Sean has been following this much closer than I have lately. The negotiations apparently didn't bring any other result than to meet again. Obviously it would make sense to cooperate but a lot probably needs to happen before these two countries will do that on such a sensitive issue.

New are reports about Japanese companies having won rights to develop oil fields in Libya. New investment in a politically unstable country....?

The most recent article comes from the Jamestown Foundation. They talk about how new environmental concerns have jeopardized the progress (uhm, what progress?) of negotiations on the Siberian Pacific oil pipeline. This pipeline has been debated for years now and decisions keep switching back and forth to the Nakhodka (Japanese) option and the Daqing (Chinese) option... Japan would benefit from this pipeline as a way of diversification within its range of oil suppliers. The same obviously goes for China. The last sentence in the article is perhaps most telling:
The rejection of the planned route for a Japan-bound pipeline on environmental grounds may be a convenient pretext to switch to a China-bound pipeline.

And lastly, a link to a picture that I found quite entertaining. This is from The Korea Times but somehow I don't think this is how you want to be living, and so this is not the image you should be sending out when talking about saving energy and energy efficiency: Using candles in an effort to promote energy saving.